By Darlene Ricker
Villa del Lago took a 12-10 win over Mt. Brilliant in the 2017 season opener at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) on Thursday. Both sides of the field were lined with an exceptionally large number of tailgaters for a weekday match.
Mt. Brilliant held their own for the first half, containing Villa del Lago to 5-all at halftime. But from there on, they just couldn’t put the brakes on the superteam.
Ten-goaler Hilario Ulloa and 5-goaler Carlucho Arellano made a dynamic duo, passing the ball seamlessly to one another. Each made 5 goals for Villa del Lago. Arellano had the play of the day with an “impossible” sharply angled cut shot directly into goal 5 seconds before the close of the third.
Ulloa opened the fourth chukker with a 70-yard approach shot into goal, unleashing Villa del Lago’s sustained push ahead. His team made six consecutive goals combined in the third and fourth, holding Mt. Brilliant at a standstill. Mt. Brilliant rallied with five goals in the last two chukkers, all but one from the field.
After the game Ulloa grazed one of his horses amidst a group of grooms doing the same. “I’m happy to be joining Villa del Lago for another year. We played really well last year but lost the final,” he said. “This season is really competitive in the 20-goal series, so we all worked really hard over the last few months to get better horses and more of them so we could have an improved and larger string.”
Because he is not playing the 26-goal series this season, Ulloa said he will be able to play the 20-goal with all of his best horses. “That will help me a lot,” said Ulloa, who brought 15 horses to IPC. “I think this this is going to be my best year with horses in the 20-goal.”
Reflecting on Thursday’s game, he said he felt his team played well. “Maybe we had a little bit of a slow start in the first two chukkers, but as we got to know each other we really played as a team,” said Ulloa. “I think it’s going to be a very competitive season and a great year for Villa del Lago.”
Villa del Lago will face off against Postage Stamp, a new team at IPC this season, in Sunday’s final of the 20-goal Herbie Pennell Cup. The New Year’s Day game takes place at 3 p.m. on the Engel & Völkers field as the featured match on IPC’s official 2017 Opening Day, which offers an enhanced viewing experience and numerous social activities.